An Idaho dairy and its owner have been fined $130,000 for discharging manure into a water of the U.S. during a flood that inundated the farm in 2017.
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A field near American Falls, Idaho, is covered with standing water on Feb. 10, 2017. Widespread flooding damaged crops and fields and inundated farms. A southern Idaho dairy and its owner were fined for allowing manure to flow into a nearby canal during the flooding. Capital Press File

The discharge is a misdemeanor violation of the Clean Water Act, according to Acting U.S. Attorney Rafael M. Gonzalez Jr.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy W. Dale ordered 4 Brothers Dairy Inc. to pay a $95,000 fine and Andrew Fitzgerald, 60, of Shoshone, Idaho, to pay a $35,000 fine. They pleaded guilty last fall under a plea agreement.

The incident took place during record-breaking snow, rain and flooding in February of 2017.

Under the plea agreement, 4 Bros. also agreed to obtain a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit, which is issued under the Clean Water Act by the Environmental Protection Agency.

NPDES permits are designed to control water pollution by regulating point sources, such as large dairies, that discharge pollutants into waters of the U.S.

Dale also imposed one year of probation on 4 Bros. during the sentencing.

According to court records, the dairy has at least 1,000 head of cattle and maintains wastewater lagoons adjacent to the Milner-Gooding Canal, which flows into the Malad River and on to the Snake River.

In the winter of 2017, record precipitation, snowpack and flooding caused extreme runoff at the 4 Bros. dairy. During that flooding, 4 Bros. and Fitzgerald negligently caused discharges of manure-laden water into the Milner Gooding Canal at three locations, according to court records.

On Feb. 10, 2017, a catchment area on the east side of the dairy overtopped, inadvertently breached and discharged snowmelt and manure into the canal. 4 Bros. and Fitzgerald were aware of the discharge but did not attempt to repair the lagoon until Feb. 23. They admitted in the plea agreement that failing to repair the discharge for 14 days was criminally negligent under the circumstances.

Two other discharges occurred between Feb. 19 and Feb. 22. On the west side of the dairy, 4 Bros. used earth-moving equipment to cut open a berm and lined it with plastic to cause manure-laden wastewater from a lagoon to flow into the canal.

4 Bros. also pumped manure-laden wastewater from a lagoon into the canal. 4 Bros. additionally admitted that these discharges were negligent under the circumstances, according to the plea agreement.

4 Bros. also agreed to commit no further Clean Water Act violations and to provide the EPA and state regulators with full access to the operation as well as books and records upon reasonable notice to ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act.

The case was investigated by EPA, the state Departments of Environmental Quality and Agriculture and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s office.

Jerry Dakin’s cows have produced milk that helped feed families across the state for decades. Now, the longtime Manatee County dairyman has been recognized as Florida’s Farmer of the Year.

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